But The Wine is Cheap…

I paid a premium for food and other goods in China and India simply because I was a rich western guest and I could afford a friendly markup.  I learned to accept the small gouge as long as I never felt the knife twist and the price exceed a reasonable inflation, which is one where I still get a deal and the vendor feels good that he screwed me.

In Rome, the outsider-premium feels nastier because the cost of living is already inflated.

The other day I went to the butcher to buy a pork roast for dinner and it cost a whopping 37 euros.  That’s 51 US dollars.

For pork.  For a small roast to feed six.

I should have refused to pay but sometimes the battle isn’t worth it.  Instead, I won’t return and I will tell everyone not to go to the Macelleria on Via dei Balestrari.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been gouged in Rome.  I spent 80 euros at a  vegetable stand in Campo di Fiori at Christmas.  In a country that oozes fresh produce, what possible equation of vegetables adds up to 110 dollars?

These are exceptional examples but still, Rome is noticeably expensive.  I don’t have extravagant habits and I think twice about buying anything here that isn’t necessary. (Jim is a good man not to debate how I define “necessary.”)

The average cost of a few items?

Taxi fare:   To travel 5 kilometers (3 miles) to my Italian class,  it costs me 14 euros or just short of 20-bucks.  I always walk home.  The meter starts at 3.20 euros ($4) during the day and 4.50 euros ($6.20) at night.

Gas:  1.80 euros /liter or $7.20/gallon.

Movie ticket:  8 euros ($11).  I suspect this is about the same in the US.

A pair of Levis 501 Jeans:  85-euros ($117) on Amazon.it.  You won’t find Levis for under 100 euros on the street.

Cup of Coffee:  1 euro ($1.30).

Milk:  1.50 euros a quart.  ($6.00/gallon)

Rent:  About 1000 euros ($1400) a bedroom in the city center.  Jim thinks this is a low estimate and he may be right but it’s a good general guide.


George’s description of the Italian boys at his school:

They dress in cool clothes.

They always talk when the teacher is talking.

They hang with the pretty girls.


I’ve belonged to a book club through most of my adult life.  The groups have varied in their commitment to discourse of matters literary.  Some clubs didn’t stray from discussing the book;  others discussed everything but the book. Many offered a good balance between sorority and structure.  Wine has been a constant.

In Rome, my book club has chosen to forego the book but not the company.  We meet every other Thursday at one of Rome’s unique venues – a rooftop view, a cozy enoteca, or a sidewalk restaurant.  Reading may not be the gathering’s raison d’être, but the women who meet are smart and successful and we manage to cover a lot of significant and gossy ground.  It’s nice to touch base after a hectic fortnight of to-ing and fro-ing on the mommy train.  The group includes a school administrator, an IT communications specialist, a gender-equality legal advocate, a nutritionist, an actress, a costume designer…


Of course, I am still always with a book – and these days, two.  My new habit  is to read only fiction at my bedside and non-fiction during the day.  On deck:  The Swerve (How the World Became Modern) and The Leopard (by Lampedusa).


Good to see you, spring:

We spent an afternoon on the Appian Way, the ancient Roman highway that extends from the city wall to the sea.  Some stretches still have the original stone paving and you can see ruts made by chariots that traveled along the road. Ruins and fields and views line this section of the highway which is only 15 minutes from the city:

And more:


Settimana Bianca

I regret not skiing the slopes of Gulmarg in Kashmir when I lived in India.  Once you leave the subcontinent, Kashmir seems a near-impossible trip to organize.  Shangri La, unreachable…

I hear that the Dolomites in Italy are magical as well and they are on my plans for next winter’s Settimana Bianca – or white week.  This winter break, the kids’ vacations didn’t coincide and we only had a few days to get away.  We stayed closer to Rome and drove to the northern tip of the Apennines, just south of Bologna.  It was the kids’ first ski adventure.

True to her sullen teenage self, Olivia hedged her promise to take at least one lesson:   “I’ll see how I feel when I’m there…”  (The mommy who wins small battles lets the words lazy, and spoiled crash into the back of her clenched lips instead of speaking them.) As predicted, Olivia saw the snow and couldn’t resist it; she aced her lessons and like her mother, methodically mastered one slope before moving to another.

George begged to quit half-an-hour into his first lesson.  When we calculated the cost of that 30 minutes (ski gear, lesson, ticket, hotel), it was easy to abandon him with the instructor and to disappear down the slope.  I  know that George struggled and that it was embarrassing for him to lag behind his faster siblings, but he managed to find his balance and control and he returned for two more days of lessons.

As for Fast Eddie, my natural athlete, it wont’ be long before he leaves his mommy in the wake of his slalom.


Olivia is in Greece this week on a school trip chasing history and mythology from Athens to Areopoli.  Many of you know that she is scared to travel without her parents.  There was a good amount of worry and drama leading up to her departure but she made it.  She called yesterday excited to tell me about Mycenae and Agamemnon and to share her wonder of connecting legend to land.


Jim won the Polk Award for his work in Bangladesh last year.  If the Pulitzer is the Oscars of journalism, than the Polk might be considered the Golden Globe.  Jim was prescient in reporting labor unrest in the garment industry in the months leading up to two large industrial disasters:  the Tazreen Factory fire and the collapse of Rana Plaza.  After the accidents, he was one of a few foreign reporters to get into the country.